Information on nearly 71,000 people held in Europol Information System

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The Europol Information System (EIS) contained information on 70,917 "suspected/convicted criminals" as of December 2013, an increase of 47% on 2012 and a near-100% increase since December 2010 when it held information on 35,585 people.

The figures are contained in EU policing agency Europol's General Report for 2013, which also shows that the EIS - "Europol's central criminal information and intelligence database" - held information on 245,142 objects, an increase of 31% on 2012.

Under Article 12 of Europol's current legal basis (a 2009 Council Decision), the EIS "may be used to process only such data as are necessary for the performance of Europol's tasks".

In relation to people, this covers those suspected of having committed, taken part in, or who have been convicted of "a criminal offence in respect of which Europol is competent".

Data can also be stored on:

"[P]ersons regarding whom there are factual indications or reasonable grounds under the national law of the Member State concerned to believe that they will commit criminal offences in respect of which Europol is competent."

The is allowed to go beyond these rules in its analysis work files (AWFs, "subject-focused" files that "provide information to ongoing operations in EU Member States"). Article 14 of the Europol Council Decision states that AWFs may contain data on:

(a) persons as referred to in Article 12(1) - those suspected of having committed, taken part in, or who have been convicted, as outlined above;

(b) persons who might be called on to testify in investigations;

(c) persons who have been the victims of one of the offences under consideration or with regard to whom certain facts give reason to believe that they could be the victims of such an offence;

(d) contacts and associated; and

(e) persons who can provide information on the cirminal offences under consideration.


"The processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs or trade-union membership and the processing of data concerning health or sex life shall not be permitted unless strictly necessary for the purposes of the file concerned and unless such data supplement other personal data already input in that file."

The rules surrounding Europol's data-gathering and data protection are likely to change significantly when the new Europol Regulation is adopted.

The 2013 General Report notes that the main types of crime related to information in the database are drug trafficking (29%), robbery (18%), forgery of money (10%), illegal immigration (9%), and fraud and swindling (7%).

According to the Report:

"Annually, Europol coordinates and supports an impressive number of complex international investigations run by Member States' law enforcement services. In 2013, more than 18,300 new cross-border cases - a 15% increase compared to the previous year - were initiated by Member States, Europol and third parties. Each month 38,000 operational messages in support of ongoing cases were exchanged. Altogether 456,598 messages were exchanged during the year between 452 competent authorities in 28 Member States and 42 third partners."

See: Europol, 'General Report on Europol Activities', 27 May 2014

Further reading

  • 'The reform of Europol: modern EU agency, or intergovernmental dinosaur?', EU Law Analysis, 18 June 2014
  • 'Police forces get ready for multi-billion euro policing and security funds', Statewatch News Online, June 2014
  • '"Foreign fighters" phenomenon spurs dozens of new counter-terrorism policies', Statewatch News Online, June 2014
  • 'Europol lists lock-ons, blockades, demonstrations and parades under "violent extremism"', Statewatch News Online

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